Locally Sourced?

UPDATE: I received the following response via Zomato to my April 23, 2016 review from Interim on 6/2/2016.  I thought it important to share with readers of this blog:

Mr. Cole,

Thank you so much for your review of Interim. We would like to tell you how much we appreciate your feedback. We would like to make you aware that the issues you have brought to our attention have been addressed. We have also changed the wording on our menu as to not be misleading to any of our guests. Again, thank you, and we look forward to seeing you soon.

Sincerely,

Otie H.
Guest Relations Manager


ORIGINAL POST:

As someone who lives and works inside the Parkways of Memphis, I often feel like I am traveling to another city when I venture eastward. Paul and I attended an event at the University of Memphis early Friday evening and decided we should dine in East Memphis since we were outside our regular orbit.  Neither of us had eaten at Interim since the restaurant and bar hired David Krog as Executive Chef and other new kitchen staff. Interim is part of the EAT HERE brand responsible for Babalu Tacos & Tapas and Table 100 locations in Memphis, Knoxville, Birmingham and Jackson, MS.


The bar is the first thing you notice as you enter the front door at Interim. We arrived just before 8 PM and found the bar busy with customers. We gambled that we could be seated in the dining room without reservations and scored a table near the kitchen. In most restaurants, dining near the kitchen isn’t usually desirable. But the open design of the kitchen is the centerpiece of the decor here. The long black granite countertop forms a horizon that separates diners from the kitchen but provides a landscape view into what will soon be arriving at your table.

Floor staff provide attentive and courteous table service here. As soon as we were seated, we were asked to order drinks, but we declined until we made decisions about food. The menu impressively listed eight local farmers and artisans as suppliers. After reviewing the menu, our server returned for our order. She told us about a puréed carrot soup but had to consult her order book to finish reading the rest of the specials to us: grouper for the fish, pork loin with mashed sweet potatoes and a platter of seasonal vegetables. Paul ordered the Sunflower Shoot salad and a glass of Sancerre to start followed by Seared Scallops. I ordered the Boudin Stuffed Quail paired with a Moscow Mule. For my entrée, I chose the Filet of Beef cooked medium rare and a glass of the Malbec-Antigal Uno.

The cool, crisp arugula tossed in an avocado puree and citrus vinaigrette with tiny orange slices and sunflower seeds made a refreshing, light salad with a perfect pairing of Sancerre. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

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The stuffed quail arrived split into halves over beds of braised turnip greens and a demi glace flavored with dates and tiny orange slices. This delicious and hearty starter combined a satisfying medley of savory, bitter and sweet. ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

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My glass of Malbec arrived as we finished our first course. Paul ordered a glass of Cakebread Chardonnay to accompany his entrée. Our next course arrived a few minutes later but without Paul’s Chardonnay. He waited patiently for his wine so that he could enjoy it with the scallops. The pairing was worth the wait. The scallops and mussels were perfectly cooked and served with a rich beurre blanc subtly flavored with tangerine. The herbed risotto was creamy, a bit overly so, but good texture and flavor. ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

My entrée disappointed. A few bites in, I realized that the chef overcooked my filet – a terrible fate for a premium cut. Our server noticed my displeasure and offered to ask the kitchen to prepare a new filet, but I turned her down because I thought the center looked rarer than the edges of the filet. Besides, I hate waiting for my food when others are ready to eat. After a few more bites cut toward the center, salt overpowered the meat to the point that I found myself parched for water. I couldn’t finish it.

The roasted root vegetables with the filet came with more turnip greens. The greens complimented the stuffed quail in the previous course, but overwhelmed here. In hindsight, ordering these dishes in sequence was a mistake, but I had no way to know that turnip greens would be served with the beef or that demi glace would appear on each plate.  Experienced waitstaff trained by the kitchen might have warned me of the similarity of my ordered courses. The three-cheese potato gratin on my plate was a light, fluffy and creamy treat. ⭐️1/2

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Where’s the beef (from)?

For dessert we shared Le Moka, a chocolate and coffee mousse sprinkled with oat cookie crumbles. The creamy, fluffy mousse with crunchy cookie paired well with a B&B. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

To Interim’s credit, the manager allowed our server to remove the charge for dessert and digestif from our bill after my entrée experience. Very nice of them to do, but I could not stop thinking about the filet the next day.

On its menu, Interim lists Claybrook Farm near Covington, Tennessee as a supplier of beef. According to their website, Claybrook does not sell beef tenderloin from which filets are cut. With suspicions raised, I called Interim to ask about their beef supplier. Interim purchases beef from Claybrook Farms for its meatballs and burgers, but the filet “is not local.”

In an article published last week, Tampa Bay Times food critic Laura Reiley exposed multiple local restaurants for making misleading and false claims about the sources of their ingredients. People who seek to buy local hope to find food which is fresher and better tasting, reduce their carbon footprint and spend their dollar closer to home. Could Memphis restaurants be engaging in the same subterfuge?

I simply don’t know, but Interim feeds my suspicion that restaurant claims about locally sourced ingredients can be specious. Interim proudly lists local farmers and artisans as sources for their ingredients on their menu, but none of the dishes listed on the menu attribute their source of ingredients. When I called Interim to ask about the source of beef for the most expensive dish on their menu, all they could say was it “is not local.” Is there a reason my filet was so salty? Was my filet “locally sourced” from the marked down section of the meat department at the grocery across the street?

Memphis isn’t New York City, Chicago, San Francisco or Paris.  I know that fine dining is different here than in cities where Michelin rated restaurants abound. But a little authenticity goes a long way toward building trust among your customers who come to eat at your establishment. The claims made on Interim’s menu mislead the customer. Diners should not expect every ingredient to be locally sourced when eating out. “Local” isn’t always practical. If you are going to claim locally sourced ingredients, be clear if there are exceptions. Restaurants can cover themselves by stating that they make attempts to source ingredients locally when possible.

Be wary Memphis and ask questions when you dine out.

 

 

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